Sunday, February 24, 2008

Eternal Struggles IX: "Pseudoscience begins with an emotionally appealing but implausible hypothesis which only looks for items to support it"

From the Coker article:
"Pseudoscience begins with a hypothesis — usually one which is appealing emotionally, and spectacularly implausible — and then looks only for items which appear to support it.
Conflicting evidence is ignored. Generally speaking, the aim of pseudoscience is to rationalize strongly held beliefs, rather than to investigate or to test alternative possibilities. Pseudoscience specializes in jumping to "congenial conclusions," grinding ideological axes, appealing to preconceived ideas and to widespread misunderstandings."

More from Carol Davis's post on the EIM thread (I have added links into her text):
"This blog group obviously defines the higher levels of Sackett to be the only acceptable evidence for efficacy, and I understand the reason why you would want to remain there.
However,if you want to question the science behind complementary therapies, (basic science or research outcomes), you need to question the NIH. In 1997 the NIH held a consensus conference on the evidence for acupuncture and not only publically agreed that well designed peer reviewed research revealed that acupuncture was providing positive outcomes in certain cases, but that there was a level of credibility to the concept of a "flow" that needed to be investigated further by approaches other than the randomized controlled trial.
If you want to question the science behind complementary therapies in rehabilitation, question the positive results of Tai chi on balance conducted as part of the multisite FIXCIT trials at Emory University headed up by Dr. Stephen Wolf.
If you want to question why a research one university has hired and tenured a professor who teaches about complementary therapies in rehabilitation, question the administrators of Harvard Med, Duke, Princeton, USC, Stanford, and a host of other schools which proudly publish from their medical schools in the several peer reviewed journals that now exist, and offer annual continuing education on these topics.

This train has left the station folks, and we can engage in wonderful discussion about what we believe, what we know as fact and what we can prove with regard to the science behind complementary therapies. But to ignore or dismiss the contribution of quantum physics to this discussion is to turn a blind eye to exciting and quite plausable hypotheses that accompany the facts of what we observe is happening at a celluar level. I say "observe" based on the work of outstanding scientists, at Harvard, Duke, Princeton and, yes, the NIH, NCCAM - National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine."

Just in case anyone reading this missed it, here it is again:
"But to ignore or dismiss the contribution of quantum physics to this discussion is to turn a blind eye to exciting and quite plausable hypotheses that accompany the facts of what we observe is happening at a celluar level."

There is a whole system in there, in the body, that Davis repeatedly ignores in favor of jumping to the molecular level of existence. That system is the excitable nervous system. This truly sounds like she would prefer to ignore the obvious in favor of the glamorous, or the mysterious, or the pre-packaged, pre-digested pseudoscientific memeplexes that float around out there in our sad, tattered postmodern dumbed-down world where all ideas are considered equal (especially on TV) no matter how absurd or anti-science or inappropriately outside their own domain they may be.

Honestly, I have no problem with research of tai chi or anything else. Fine. It's easy (at least it SHOULD be..)to separate -

1. the "thing" itself, some intervention used by humans on themselves or each other, from..
2. its historical underpinnings, the set of ideas, the theory that accumulated around it and was used to "explain" it.

If the thing turns out to work, it does not follow therefore that the THEORY was correct.

To provide contrast, here is a paper in which the author did a tremendous job of providing support for his particular theory from several different domains without ignoring the nervous system or shmushing domains together or violating any of them in any sort of annoying way, takes care to not deliberately insult the intelligence of any of the specialists who might work in any of those domains:
Minds, Brains & Catalysis: A theory of cognition grounded in metabolism ( Chris Davia). In particular, check out his section titled Life as Catalysis - he keeps different scalar categories of energy dissipation separated with firm black lines, so that his model looks like a patchwork quilt.

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